RogerBW's Blog

Mulholland Drive (2001) 31 July 2022

2001 unclassifiable, dir. David Lynch, Naomi Watts, Laura Harring; IMDb / allmovie. The dame is trouble.

I try not to be casually dismissive. I don't assume that I will automatically understand anything worth understanding without putting any work into it. I did, in fact, enjoy Magnolia once I'd got into the right frame of mind. But I never got into the right frame of mind for this.

Perhaps that's because it starts off promisingly: I enjoy quite a bit of noir, after all, and the beautiful woman who's suddenly threatened by people she trusted, then accidentally left alone with no explanations and a bag full of money, is a lovely noir introduction. But nothing is ever done with it, because this is "surrealism" and "non-linear narrative" and all that stuff… which means, in the end, that this is just a series of 210,893 pictures, some of which are interesting to look at.

There is puzzle fiction that works. At the simple level, the time-travel shenanigans of the second Back to the Future film; more fiddly, the more complex and less comprehensible shenanigans of Primer; at greater length, something like Babylon 5, which poses a lot of questions and answers them interestingly, in a way that's clearly the harder part of this kind of writing. But sometimes you just get something like the 2003 Battlestar Galactica, or JJ Abrams' Alias and Lost, in which it becomes increasingly clear that there really aren't any answers, but if you pile on enough questions maybe the punters won't notice.

Parts of this film work well: the way Watts and Harring shift their acting styles when they shift character, or the way the meeting with "the cowboy" is so ridiculous that even the characters in the film notice how silly it is. But what engages my attention with a complex narrative is analysing the significance of what happens, working out what it will all mean, and since the answer here is either "nothing" or "whatever you make of it, man" that just seems like a waste of time.

For that matter, there's arty film without a compelling story, which one can enjoy for the acting or the images (Paris, Texas and Cinema Paradiso come to mind). But the actual shot composition here is uninspired at best, and the actors are clearly being pushed into artificiality. Ooh we took a small person and gave him standard-size prosthetics so that he looks like a man with a tiny head! Revolutionary.

It may be that I just don't get it, but I think there is nothing for me here.

As usual if you want more of my witterings you should listen to Ribbon of Memes.

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Tags: film reviews

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